The Journey to Middle Earth – 100% Pure New Zealand (South Island)

One week exploring North Island was not enough..however, life must move on…So, here we are..ready to explore one of the most beautiful islands on earth, the south island of New Zealand!

31 March 2012 (Day 9)

Wake up in the morning with full of happiness. Today, I will ride Tranz Alpine, a train which rated at top six of world’s most scenic train — one of my bucket list checked. Tranz Alpine will take us from Christchurch to Greymouth. From Greymouth, we will continue our journey using intercity bus to Franz Josef, a glacier city. The train will take 4.5 hours from Christchurch to Greymouth thru 16 tunnels and 5 viaducts. The scenery…IT’S BEYOND WORDS!!!!!!!!!!! I could not even find any word to define how beautiful the scenery was. That was the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen. The real middle earth! That Arthur’s Pass…speechless.

The bus terminal just cross the train station, after grab subway sandwich as lunch, we continue our journey to Franz Josef via Hokitika. Franz Josef is a small city and well-known with the glacier. The bus will drop you in front of the hotel as requested. We stayed at Punga Grove, the best lodge we ever stayed in NZ. Even the glacier is on the eyesight, the weather was so lovely. You don’t have to use 6 layers clothes or 6 pairs of socks. We arrived at 7 PM, grab a dinner, and sleep early as we planned to hike the glacier in the next day.

1 April 2012 (Day 10)

One thing I want to do before I die is to visit glacier…and today is the day. Memei and Adrian encourage me to sign up for half day glacier hike. Well, I know my physical condition and I don’t want to die on the top of glacier…but, they always said, you can do it, come on..never give up! So, here I am…standing in front of the guide office, bring bunch of chocolates and candies! Ready to hike one of the world’s most beautiful glacier! The guide tour was very recommended and will equip you with tools to guarantee your safety. (tips: according to Memei and Adrian, don’t use too much layers, it’s hot up there. Sunglasses and glove are must!).

All 23 participants plus bus driver and 1 guide are ready to go! It took 20 mins (4km) from guide office in city center to the entry gate of glacier preservation park. The guide lead us to the glacier area thru walking track across forest, downhill and uphill track! The walking track is about 2km before reaching the terminal face…only the edge of the glacier! The guide named Ben (whom I believe as twin brother of Enrique Iglesias) gave us safety briefing before entering the glacier. As preservation area, only guided tour allowed. Because every time a group of people open the way to hike the glacier, the guide must close it again. We have to hike for uphill road with inclination more than 45 deg before entering the glacier area. After walking 2km, I decided to give up as my heart was beating so fast, welcome hypoglycemia! Since Ben was the only guide, so no guide can take me back to the office. Ben told me to go to parking lot where the bus driver wait for us. Just follow the track beside the river, he said. Thank God, the track is public track so I can meet a lot of people. Actually, this is the best way to enjoy the scenery, better than previous track.

At parking lot, no one’s there! OK..just wait..1 hour later..still no bus driver pick me up. Then I saw 3 Australian elder tourists who stayed in the same lodge as we are and we already met them in Tranz Alpine train. I ask them whether I can go with them back to the city and they said no problem, my saviors! At the guide office, I just report to them and return back their equipment, and they refund my money back! As touch the glacier is one of my bucket list, I’m still dying to go up there. So, I search another way to reach the top and I found scenic flight. I will use helicopter to see the glacier from the sky and the best part is, I will landed on top of glacier!!!!! My flight operator offers a scenic flight above both Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, I just give my credit card and don’t want to know how much it will cost. 1 hour later…here I am…on the top of glaciers! Feel so lucky to see and touch the glacier before they melt because of global warming.

Do you remember my earlier post about how zealanders (or most western people) are in good physical condition? Memei said, from 26 people in the group, 7 people are Asians and they always to be the last in the group!

2 April 2012 (Day 11)

From Franz Josef, we plan to go southern to Queenstown. As we found very beautiful picture about Lake Wanaka, we decided to stop by at Lake Wanaka before proceeding to Queenstown. We didn’t stay overnight just spend about 3 hours in that beautiful Lake. We visit New Zealand when they were starting to have autumn, so I can imagine how beautiful the scenery is. I never travel to any country in autumn, so can’t wait for having those lovely colors! Our bus to Lake Wanaka departs at 8 AM so we check out at 7 AM and had a breakfast in café in front of bus stop. Intermezzo: Most tourist sites in NZ have public toilet and it’s automatic! Just come to NZ to try this sophisticated toilet 🙂

Along the journey to Lake Wanaka, our bus driver, Malcolm, explained to us about the history of each stunning scenery. We stopped by at Paringa, a salmon farm where salmon and duck live together in the same lake happily ever after. Next stop is Knight Look Out Point, it’s a cliff where we can see the blue sea. The last stop before Lake Wanaka is Lake Hawea, also known as mirror lake, because the water in the lake is like crystal clear so it’s perfectly mirroring the hills.

We safely arrive at Lake Wanaka at 2.30 AM. After store our luggage at i-site, we start to explore Lake Wanaka. Apparently, we have to walk quite far to get the same view as we found in the internet. Adrian was the one who always encourage us to reach the place even Mei and I almost give up..and it paid off…I introduced you, the picturesque autumn scenery of Lake Wanaka.

Our next bus to Queenstown will be at 6 PM so we wait the bus by reading the book in front of the lake, accompanied with warm weather and beautiful sunset.  The naked bus drop us off in front of the lodge as most passengers stay in Black Sheep Backpacker. Intermezzo: In Lake Wanaka, Adrian had “a love story” with asian girl named Nguyen. Actually, we never know her name, Adrian just named her Nguyen as she reminds him of Cook Pu, Ted mosby’s student in tv series How I met your mother –why Nguyen not Cook Pu? Ask Adrian! Well, actually it’s not a love story, we just made a joke *kriuk*

3 April 2012 (Day 12)

In this day, I declared to fall in love with Queenstown and want to stay in this city when I retired. This city is so stunning. The view..oh my God…no wonder Mr. Peter Jackson filmed LOTR mostly in this city. We took atomic scenic tour to help us exploring Queenstown as many sites located outside city center. Our guide, the lovely Maralyn, is a native Queenstown so she must be the best right? Since it’s only 3 of us for today’s tour so Maralyn said we can use the car longer than it scheduled. Yey…the tour started at 10 AM until 2 PM.

Maralyn said, the movie industry changed Queenstown, especially after LOTR. This city has grown rapidly in the past 10 years. Many resorts and hotels built to accommodate tourism. Our first stop is Queenstown Look Out Point, where we can see Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu

The next stop is Lake Hayes, a stunning lake with green prairie. Then we proceed to historical bridge (I forgot the bridge name). You can see how clean the river is with this autumn color lovely!

From that bridge, we went to Kawarau Bridge, the first commercial bungee jumping site in the world. The legendary AJ Hackett established the place in 1988. Mei decided to do bungee while Adrian and I decided to stay and encourage her (remember, we are not an adrenaline junkie!). Actually, when seeing how tall the bridge was, Mei had doubt whether she wants to jump or not. Adrian and I just say “come on Mei, we already in this place, we can’t miss this opportunity”. 5 mins later, she already at top of the jump deck and ready to do one of her bucket list, do a bungee jump from this famous 43m tall – AJ Hackett bridge!

From bungee jumping site, we went to Gibbston Valley winery. Alan Brady is the one who make this valley become one of the best winery maker in the world. Our tour guide named Christy, she is the best winery story-teller. Christy said the important things which impact the wine taste are temperature, wind, and soil characteristic where the grave planted. Christy also took us to the wine cave where hundreds of barrels stored (FYI: how the wine store also give effect to the taste of wine).

Our last stop was Arrowtown, the small ancient city. Most of the buildings are still originally from 1950. I just love sitting on the bench, feel the wind and enjoy that red tree…what a wonderful autumn color!

We left Arrowtown at 1 PM for Lake Wakatipu. Maralyn drop us off at Queenstown Wharf as we want to take TSS Earnshaw Lake Cruise. The cruise started at 4 PM and will use old ship which still has chimney and use charcoal. This cruise actually quite similar from what we had when crossing the cook strait, so we were not as enjoy as our cruise before.

After the TSS earnshaw cruise, we want to try skyline. It’s like cable car that will take you to the peak point of Queenstown. When riding the skyline, it’s just like we’re in Twilight movie..remember the scene when Edward and Bella jump from one tree to another..yes, the trees were there! Actually, the park have paradigling, luge, mountain track, unfortunately the park close at 5 PM, so when we got there, everything closed but the skyline.

4 April 2012 (Day 13)

Today is Milford Sound Tour…the famous and greatest itinerary! This tour is so famous and number 1 at must to do list in NZ. We took Great Sight as our tour guide. The tour started at 7.30 until 8 PM. The tour combined bus trip and cruise. Our bus driver and guide named Dion and Eddie, they are very knowledgable and willing to serve all passengers at their best. The journey stop at few amazing spots, such as Te Anau, Fiordland, and Eglinton Valley…see below picture…let picture describe the view.

Next stop is mirror lake…well, Lake Hawea is much more amazing than this…then we go to Monkey Creek. The river has a crystal clear water, you can straight drink the water tough. Along the road, we’re entertained by this stunning picturesque scenery, with high trees.

Before reaching the Milford sound, we have to pass this remarkable giant cliff. It feels like living in the wonderland where we are the dwarfs. The bus has the open roof so we feel like being a small creäture in this giant world. We have to pass Homer tunnel, the one way tunnel before entering Milford sound. And finally we are in Milford Sound!

We’re welcomed by majestic array rocks and sea-lion! If the boat playing the soundtrack of LOTR, I believe all passengers want to meet frodo. One of the amazing spot is the giant waterfall. After 2 hours cruise, we went back to Queenstown.

5 April 2012 (Day 14)

 Today we have to pack our luggage back to Christchurch via Mount Cook. Adrian left New Zealand earlier as he have to attend his sister’s wedding. He took Air NZ to Christchurch prior flying back to KL the Pekanbaru using Air Asia.

We took Great Sight bus from Queenstown to ChristChurch. The bus will stop at Lindis Pass and MacKenzie Country, before entering Mount Cook village. Let the picture tells you about how beautiful our journey is. Our journey was passing through the vineyard and some farms with longest water irrigation, 1.4 km with 29 sections and investment US$ 500,000. The bus driver, Brian, told me about wool industry in NZ. Apparently, the wool clothing made in China. So they export the wool and imported back the clothes to NZ. It’s because the labour cost in China way cheaper than in NZ. China rules!

The MacKenzie Country has amazing view where turquoise shining lake surrounded by majestic lake.

Before entering the mount cook village, we pass the observatories building, the place to see the milky way, I wish I could stop there! We stop at Mount Cook airport as some passengers would like to take a tour to explore Mount Cook from the sky. And here it is, Mount Cook Village, there are only few hostels, houses, and one school which only has 7 students, you can imagine how remote this village. The mount cook and Tasman glacier have 300m thickness!

We had our lunch in Hermitage, a luxury restaurant. Expensive? absolutely! Even the waiter trapped us by giving us no option to have cheaper lunch, it kind of paid off by this amazing view from the restaurant.

The last stop before Christchurch is Lake Pukaki then Lake Tekapo. An amazing picturesque turquoise lake. I was so regret for not stay overnight in this trip I will!

We arrived at Christchurch almost at 7 PM and brian was very kind to drop off us at each hotel. We chose to stay in Dorset house like before. Intermezzo: We had quite scary yet weird situation when we arrive at Dorset. There is a car parked outside the house with couples inside the car. When we want to open the door (Dorset give us the security code to open the entrance door), the woman come to us and said she wants to get in and use the toilet. We said that we can’t let her in even she has BBH card (hostel membership card in NZ). The weird thing is if she want to use the toilet, why don’t she use public toilet?

6 April 2012 (Day 15)

In our last day in New Zealand, we decided to have Christchurch city tour. Our first pit stop was Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Our wishes are to see kiwi, Llama and lemur…yes, the one in Madagascar movie! The wildlife reserve is just like any other zoo but you can interact with the animals closer. This place is very recommended to introduce children to the animals and plants. Actually our main wish was to see kiwi, this tiny bird always live in very dark place (they hate light). When we enter the kiwi house, we barely can see nothing. It’s so dark. I just found a shadow of kiwi, I even doubt whether that was kiwi or just my imagination.

From willowbank, we ride the bus to Avon river to try punting on the avon. It’s like a gondola passing thru Avon river with beautiful garden and trees on the riverside. That’s the best place to have romantic moment.

Our next stop was Sumner, a suburb area outside Christchurch which has a beach view. After strolling in the beach, we went back to the city and stopped by at restart mall. It’s a very unique mall since all stores designed like containers. Unfortunately, that day is good friday so most stores closed. Christchurch city tour wrapped up! It’s time to go back to Dorset House to pick up our luggage. From our lodge, we have to use bus to central station then change the bus to airport. Small incident happened when the bus driver who took us from Dorset street to central station, hit the road sign when reverse the bus to pick us up. When we told him that he broke the bumper, he did not show any response (drunk perhaps?). The bus which took us to the airport drop us far away from the airport just because we only pay for 3.2 NZD instead of using metro card (heloow…no one told us before!). Our flight will leave at 00.30 AM and the check in counter will open at 8.30 PM. Here we go again…another 10 hrs ++ in the economy class! (FYI, my luggage excesses 5 kg but I don’t have to pay it..don’t know why)

7 April 2012 (Day 16)

We landed in Kuala Lumpur at 7.30 AM and will continue to Pekanbaru using Air Asia at 11 AM. In KL – PKU flight, that 5 kg excess baggage cost me 200 RM! Arrived at Pekanbaru, we just straight went to Rumbai to use bus for Duri…for another 4 hours! What an exhausted day!

And here’s the most important fact, the one that people always ask: how much money that we spend to explore NZ in 2 weeks? let’s see the breakdown:

  • Flight ticket

Many thanks to Jet star and Lion which gave us the best deal we can get. Unfortunately, we miss Air Asia promo ticket for Christchurch – Kuala Lumpur as we thought the ticket will be cheaper but the price was getting more expensive. The total cost for flight ticket NZD 1192 with the following route: Indonesia – New Zealand using Lion air (Pekanbaru – Jakarta, Jakarta – Singapore) and Jet Star (Singapore – Auckland). New Zealand – Indonesia using Air Asia (Christchurch – Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Lumpur – Pekanbaru).

  • Land and sea transportation

We were using 2 scenic train from Picton – Christchurch and Christchurch – Greymouth, intercity and naked bus to move from one town to another (and we’re so lucky to get 1 NZD fare for 1 pax in several routes). We spent NZD 723 for land and sea transportation

If you choose to travel by camper van, you may want to check this link:

  • Lodge

We prefer to stay at hostel instead luxury hotel as our holy word is cheap, remember? Hence, spending NZD 540 for 2 weeks in New Zealand is not that expensive

  • Tours

This is our biggest expenditure even we already tried to arrange tour by ourselves. Most tourism spots in NZ located outside the city and they are all preservation area so only the certified tour operator who can enter the sites. I spent +/- NZD 1350 for paying the tours such as Milford Sound Tour, Mount Cook Tour, Franz Josef scenic heli flight, and Dolphin Cruise.

  • Meals

As I’m a Moslem and I’m allergic to everything live in the water, so my options are chicken and lamb. Memei is a vegetarian and she always get cheaper price in buying meals. However, even I was semi vegetarian in NZ, I spend +/- NZD 550 for meals (heavy meal, light meal, drinks).

  • Miscellaneous (souvenir)

The price of souvenirs are ranging from 5 – 150 NZD. The most expensive one will be Possum Merino Knitwear (scarf, sweater, gloves,etc). The budget for the souvenir is depend on you….. *wink*

  • Visa

For Indonesian, the cost to apply visa will be IDR 1,100,000. Please follow the requirement and apply for travel insurance even it’s not stated in the embassy’s website. Once the embassy reject your application, they will not refund your money back.

Hence, the total cost for exploring NZ in 2 weeks with self arrangement itinerary will be NZD 4500 – 5500 (depends on how many souvenirs you buy). Note: This is a 2 weeks trip with assumption 1 NZD = IDR 7,200

New Zealand has left such memorable pieces in my heart and visiting this country is like get one of my bucket list checked..I don’t even have a word to describe the amazing picturesque scenery in New’s just beyond word…..I quote Memei’s blog about New Zealand and that exactly what I feel about the breath-taking New Zealand.. Thank you New Zealand for having us!

New Zealand for me was…

A place on earth where you feel unlike on earth, every places breath heaven…

A place that inspire the creation of a word “breath-taking”

A place where human, wildlife and vegetation live side by side on harmony, recreate definition of earth

A place where all colour in the world invented

A place where the sky, the horizon, and the land form a cohesive inexplicable sanctuary

A place that even when you have unleashed the very possible vocabulary you’ve ever known, they simply don’t do justice to its heavenly existence

A place where inspiration is in the air that you take

Simply – Beyond word…

– More stories illustrated in my web album “An Illustrated Journey” –

4 thoughts on “The Journey to Middle Earth – 100% Pure New Zealand (South Island)

    1. I left my heart in NZ,It’s like you are in the middle of fairy tale world! I plan to have a campervan trip for next (someday!). I have put Australia in my bucket list :),dying to have that train trip from west to east (?) *while dreaming of hugh jackman comes with the horse ;P — any suggestion?

      1. The only suggestion I would have is to get the van for as long as possible and get away from the cities. The cities are nice, but they are not what australia is all about. We got a van for $35/day last year and drove inland from Sydney through the outback and had an amazing time. Wildlife everywhere, free camping everywhere and eventually ended up at Uluru which was fantastic. You just need a lot of time because every place is so far from the next.

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